online course

3 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Launching an Online Course (and How to Fix Them)

The creator economy is made up of 50 million creators, who are all living out their dream jobs thanks to platforms like YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. This new economy is all about aligning your business with your creative calling, and for many, that means creating an online course or program to monetize their zone of genius and help others level up in theirs.

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Why create an online course?

The digital education space is on track to top $350 billion by the year 2025. While the space is crowded, there is plenty of room for creators with a fresh perspective and unique knowledge to stand out and succeed.

If you want to be your own boss and create a source of recurring revenue, here are three reasons why creating a profitable online course could be the answer: 

  1. Time management. There are only so many hours a day to serve your existing clients. How many more people could you reach without having to add more to your daily workload?
  2. Freedom and flexibility. When you launch a course, you have the ability to share your knowledge with hundreds, or even thousands, of people at once. Plus, this is a business you can run from anywhere and at any time.
  3. Make a bigger impact. With your newfound flexibility and ability to reach many clients through this one channel, you’re more likely to make a bigger impact while building your personal brand.

So, what does it take to successfully create and launch a course? Developing a course and marketing it are two completely different skills sets, and while I’ve seen many successful launches, I’ve seen many dismal ones, as well. 

Related: 7 Steps to Validate Your Idea for a Profitable Online Course

Planning your online course launch

There are a number of components that go into a successful online course launch. First, you must be crystal clear on your messaging and positioning.

That means digging deep and asking yourself a lot of questions. Here are a few ones to start with:

  • Who are you serving?
  • How are you serving them?
  • Is there a gap in the market that your program fills?
  • Why are you the right person to create this program?
  • Are you creating a new specialty?
  • Are you carving out a new category?

Not only do you need to ask yourself all of these questions (and more!), but you also need to be completely clear on not only what your course model is, but how it fits into the marketplace. You must be realistic about creating a plan for launch. It’s not just about completing your program and then selling it. You need to set yourself up for success, and that means knowing what the common pitfalls are.

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Here are the most common mistakes I see entrepreneurs make when launching an online course, and how you can avoid these errors:

Believing the program needs to be 100% developed at launch

This just isn’t true. In reality, you should create the program plan in tandem with the actual program. Think of it like a huge film production: A studio can’t just rely on the finished product. The studio must publicize the big movie stars they’ve hired and build buzz around the finished product as they are making the film.

No matter how great you think your program is and how well received you think it will be by your intended audience, you must build buzz before you launch. A six to eight week long pre-launch period helps get the word out before you even go to market. By starting the process before your course is complete, you’ve paved the way to get your program to market faster and to a receptive audience.

Not spending enough time nurturing the audience

You need to sell your ideas and let people get to know you before you ask for the sale. You can’t just skip ahead to the sale. Spend a significant amount of time building your personal brand and letting your target audience get to know you. This relationship building is key.

I recommend weekly nurturing in the form of emails, short-form videos or even blog posts. This frequency is valuable for both new and organic audiences, especially if you’re driving them to video content that is aligned with your upcoming offers. If you are building up a new audience from scratch, it’s important that your ads drive them to your website where you can capture their email address. You don’t own your social media following, but your email list is yours and is more valuable than ever when it comes to nurturing.

Not advertising ahead of launch

No matter where you are starting out, whether you have no audience or a sizeable one already built, you simply can’t scale without advertising. The most renowned brands and companies still need to continue to advertise if they want to grow.

While algorithms are constantly changing, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are a good place to start advertising your course, and they’re all relatively easy to use. You can incorporate content into your ads on these platforms and you can set specific parameters for whom you target.

While some entrepreneurs don’t understand digital advertising and they don’t think it’s worth it because they already have an audience, the truth is, you can’t reach new people unless you advertise, and if you are starting from scratch, it’s the only way to get in front of a new audience.

Key takeaways

When building an online course, you want a firm strategy and a good plan for launch. Just remember to set goals and timelines along the way. Your pre-launch period should last no longer than six to eight weeks, and your launch should culminate in eight to 14 days of active selling. Setting these specific goals for your launch will prevent burnout and give you space at the end to get ready for your next one.

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